Public relations

When is the right time to invest in public relations?

- May 12, 2023 4 MIN READ
Dice with letters 'PR' sitting in front of newspapers

Timing is everything. Deciding when to start engaging with the media is pivotal to building awareness and achieving growth and business success, write Kathryn Van Kuyk and Anthony Caruana, co-CEOs, Media-Wize.

We often meet startups and small business owners who want to start public relations activities but they sometimes have a lack of understanding of what PR is, what it takes to succeed, and how much time they will need to invest in the PR process.

Public relations is one of the most misunderstood areas in business. Some people have a narrow focus and think it is just about achieving media clips. Others think it is a social media viral campaign or another sales tactic they can turn on and make mega bucks overnight; while others see it as the path to being a star and generating a cult following.

So, what exactly is PR?

At its essence, public relations is about building trust and credibility, and persuading and influencing a target audience. It is focused on helping your business to communicate well with one of the toughest audiences of all – journalists. It requires a story that is of wide interest and news value.

Your products and services are not the story.

If all you want to do is promote products and services, advertising is the better route for your business.

Public relations works best when you have some real news to offer, or an opinion based on establishing your credibility as a subject matter expert.

When is the right time to invest in public relations?

Puzzle with main piece showing 'public relations'

Choosing the right moment to engage PR can be a vexing question. But if you can tick more than a few items off the boxes on this checklist, then you’re ready.

  • You have a growing number of paying customers.
  • You have happy customers willing to be mentioned in stories or featured in stories about how you’re helping their business grow.
  • You’re solving a problem or providing a solution that is topical and in demand.
  • You have an elevator statement, a clear narrative and key messages.
  • Your founder/spokesperson has time to speak to journalists (sometimes at short notice).
  • Your founder/spokesperson has been media trained/coached and is comfortable articulating your unique point of difference.
  • Your senior leaders in the business have time to work closely on PR campaigns and approve copy.
  • You have investors or are about to announce a significant funding injection.
  • You have signed some key industry partnerships.
  • You’re in hiring mode to expand your team, and understand your team are brand ambassadors.
  • You have plans for local or international expansion.
  • You have an appropriate budget to fund your PR activity, and engage with experts that have a track record of successful PR campaigns in your industry and understanding of your business.

An idea is not enough

You may have a great idea, but when you engage with your audience through the media it needs to be a communication with some substance. Lots of people have great ideas. But taking those ideas a step further into something that makes a difference in someone’s life will make your PR efforts worthwhile.

Steve Jobs holding Apple iPhone

Source: Matt Yohe / Wikimedia Commons


Back in 1987, Apple’s CEO John Scully created a video about a product called the Knowledge Navigator. It foreshadowed a world where we could talk to computers and ask them about our messages, appointments, research and other information, using natural language.

The product didn’t exist, but it didn’t matter. The video was part of a presentation given at a conference and was intended to engage that audience in a specific vision. It was another six years until Apple released its first handheld computer, the MessagePad (also known as the Newton) and it wasn’t till 2007 that the iPhone was introduced. The ability for natural language to be used to ask a device to do something came in the early 2010s.

But all the way through, Apple maintained a vision that kept the company alive with its target audience. Marketing and advertising were a part of that. But having spokespeople and advocates who communicated the core vision of Apple – what Steve Jobs called “making a dent in the universe” – has been a core part of Apple’s PR strategy for over 40 years.

When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone, he engaged the world in a vision and gave them something they didn’t even realise they wanted at the time. People say Jobs was a great marketer. But he was really a PR master. He was able to create a relationship with people that brought them along a journey.

What’s your value?

Many startups and small businesses want to get their name into the public eye but without something of value to share, the effort and investment can be wasted.

To create a relationship with your target audiences, you need to offer them something of value. You need to show empathy with a problem or challenge, give them a new way to look at something, fix an issue, or change their perspective on something.

If you can do that and tick many boxes in the list above, then you’re ready to start investing in public relations.

This article was first published on Kochie’s Business Builders, read the original here.

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